In June, Golda Och Academy announced the school had been awarded a $187,500 grant from The Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey. This grant enabled the school to launch a new initiative called Refuat HaNefesh: Post-Pandemic Expansion of Youth Mental Health Services. The one-year award dovetails with the school’s strategic plan to increase the social and emotional support services for students.
“While mental health issues were on the rise pre-pandemic, Covid-19 unmasked the vulnerability of youth and teens, resulting in a national mental health crisis,” said Lori Jaffe, Director of Student Services at Golda Och Academy. “We are fortunate to have the opportunity to enhance and strengthen our resources to address these concerns for our students and take a proactive approach to educate our faculty.”
Since being awarded the Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey grant, Golda Och Academy has been making significant strides in the school’s services and programming related to student health and wellness. For the 2022-23 school year, guidance staff has increased from three to five counselors across the Upper and Lower School campuses, and in October, GOA held a schoolwide professional development initiative on trauma sensitive schools in collaboration with Jewish Family Service of Greater MetroWest. Faculty attended a full day of learning to focus on tools and strategies to take back to their classrooms and view student behavior from a different lens.
GOA also held a lunch and learn for parents on demystifying evaluations led by Lower School guidance counselor Donna Karp and Learning Specialist Coordinator Spencer Leeds.
Earlier this month, GOA’s Student Services department partnered with Communities Confronting Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) for a powerful educational substance abuse prevention program for Upper School students. CCSA’s programs are led by young, Jewish adults with firsthand experience with addiction and are designed to educate and empower students within the Jewish community to make healthy choices.That same evening, CCSA led a virtual program to educate parents on statistics, signs and dangers of substance abuse as well as how to open the lines of communication with teenagers.
In an ongoing effort to focus on Social Emotional Learning, Middle School students have dedicated time each week with their guidance counselors for small group discussions about healthy choices, relationship building and developing leadership skills. Additionally, our Lower School students have SEL classes throughout the week with guidance counselors Donna Karp and Deborah Haas along with Danielle Greene, SEL facilitator. Recent topic areas have included kindness, manners, gratitude, compassion and perspective.
“We are so proud of the work we have been doing with our school community and our partnership with The Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey,” said Head of School Rabbi Danny Nevins. “With these additional resources, we look forward to continuing to make mental health and wellness a priority for our school.”
GOA is committed to providing social, emotional and academic support for students and their families. A survey for parents and students will be forthcoming to assess student services.